Success for Babergh and Mid Suffolk at national awards
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have received national recognition this week for their innovative support of communities through Covid and beyond.
The councils were pipped to the Council of the Year title at last night’s iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards 2021 – but won a gold award for its Virtual High Street initiative supporting local retailers, and silver for service improvements by its Planning Enforcement team.
The economic development team scooped the Gold award in the asset management and regeneration category, recognising the innovative way that the councils worked with key partners to support businesses impacted by unprecedented closures during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The online platform was launched in Sudbury for businesses and traders to have an easy-to-use online presence to keep connected with customers while they were forced to close their doors during the lockdown restrictions. Many of the businesses had no previous online presence and the Virtual High Street gave them a platform to showcase their business to a wider audience.
The success of the pilot, which was run in partnership with Sudbury Town Council and Stowmarket based technology partner Queue Technology, has subsequently seen the Virtual High Street expand to Stowmarket and Hadleigh supported by funding from the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund (SIGIF).
The councils fended off competition from more than 100 other organisations nationwide to become Council of the Year finalists, winning a Bronze award behind Wigan Council and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Meanwhile, the councils’ planning enforcement team won a Silver award in the Customer Focus category, for streamlining processes and using technology to speed up investigations and put information at officers’ fingertips in order to improve the service for residents.
Cllr John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council said:
“This nomination couldn’t have come in a more challenging year. The pandemic has presented us with unprecedented demands and difficult decisions over how best to support our district and its recovery post-Covid.
“Being named in the top three councils of the year is testament to the hard work of our councillors, officers and partners working with us to help deliver our visions for our towns and communities.
“Our high streets have been significantly impacted over the last 18 months and the Virtual High Street has demonstrated our commitment to support businesses and encourage new and innovative ways of working that will support the community and boost the local economy.”
Cllr Suzie Morley, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council said:
“It’s wonderful recognition to find ourselves as finalists for Council of the Year, as well in the Customer Focus and Asset Management and Regeneration categories.
“The last 18 months have taken an unimaginable toll on so many people, but I am immensely proud that we have not only supported our communities through the immediate response to the pandemic, but also in how we have progressed ambitious and innovative plans to help transform our district and ensure a healthy post-Covid future for all our residents.”
Chief Executive of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils Arthur Charvonia said:
“Our employees have risen to the challenge of Covid-19 magnificently, showing resilience and relentless focus to support our businesses and communities, but we have also continued to be innovative in our thinking about how to make a real difference to our residents’ quality of life post-Covid. I am delighted that their dedication to Babergh and Mid Suffolk has been recognised in this way.”
Films to support the councils’ entries in each category are also available on the councils' YouTube channel:
The councils are also shortlisted for further success later this month, with housing officers in the running for a national Community Heroes of the Year award by local government magazine, the Municipal Journal (MJ).
They are being recognised for their work supporting residents who found themselves at risk of homelessness or rough sleeping during the crisis.
The team is one of nine shortlisted finalists and must now wait until the awards night on Friday 17 September to find out if they have managed to scoop the top spot.